Now that there’s some distance between us and the event, can we all agree that the performances at The Brits were a little on the flat side? Sure, there were a lot of lights and a surprising amount of fire, but too frequently, the acts performing were so slick and clearly had so little excitement about the ceremony, that it became an exercise in dead-eyed careerism.
As James Corden pointed out, Bruno Mars played to over 110 million viewers in the Superbowl half-time show earlier this month – he was hardly going to bring his A game to an event that struggled to reach an audience of 4.5 million. Katy Perry’s performance of current single Dark Horse was yawn-inducing, and while it was obviously quite the coup to get Beyoncé to appear, her unshowy display for XO didn’t quite get the pulse racing as much as her and Jay-Z’s Drunk In Love did at the Grammys.
For the newer artists at the event, professionalism gave way to wide-eyed fear. Disclosure and Lorde gave the impression they’d never met until the day of the event (maybe because, er, they hadn’t), and charisma-vacuums Bastille looked like a band entirely ill-suited to playing any stage bigger than their local youth club. All of which meant that a teenager who’s never had a solo Top 40 hit was able to steal the show.
The hotly-contested Best British Single award was won by Rudimental for the frenetic Waiting All Night. There was nothing remarkable about their walk to the podium or their acceptance speech, save for the presence of someone who visibly couldn’t believe their luck; guest vocalist Ella Eyre. Seemingly 75% hair, Eyre didn’t say anything but her face made it clear she was beside herself to be there. As a former pupil of The Brit School, it later emerged she’d attended the awards before as an audience member, weeping her way through Adele’s career-defining rendition of Someone Like You.
Had things been slightly different, Eyre could have been picking up an award entirely under her own steam. As well as being the runner-up in the BBC’s influential Sound of 2014 poll, she also came second in the Critics’ Choice Award at the Brits (behind Sam Smith on both occasions). This, plus her Brit School connections, single with Rudimental and work with other well-known artists (Naughty Boy, Tinie Tempah) shows that, despite her lack of solo success thus far, she’s clearly got backing and friends in high places. In fact, it’s probably not too much of a stretch to say she’s going to have a huge 2014. However, at a mere nineteen years of age, you may have expected a little stage fright at the biggest event in the British music calendar.
Not a bit of it. After Rudimental had helped Bastille shrug through the anaemic Pompeii, the opening of Waiting All Night rang out and Ella Eyre took centre stage. Now sporting a leather jumpsuit, unzipped to the chest, she prowled the arena, her shock of wavy hair and jet-black outfit making her look half-pantheress, half-lioness. As the song reached its explosive chorus, she jumped around, belting out the words at the top of her lungs while karate kicking her way across the stage. At that moment, the excitement, spontaneity and energy that the whole evening had been missing arrived in the shape of one person.
Her intensity levels didn’t drop, and towards the end she sunk to her knees at the front of the stage and looked to the ceiling while still performing vocal gymnastics. Bastille’s Dan Smith gamely tried to keep up, but looked like a beaten man in an alien environment. Even Pharrell and Nile Rodgers’ closing set couldn’t match Ella Eyre for sheer entertainment value.
As far as introductory statements go, Ella Eyre couldn’t have wished for much more (though perhaps it would have been nice if the TV audience hadn’t been the lowest in the awards’ history). Her success may be all-but-guaranteed thanks to the names pushing her into the spotlight, but if she carries on in the same vein as last night, she’ll be a most welcome addition to the pantheon of British pop.